‘ACCESS’ ISN’T A KEY TO TRUTH, OFTEN IT IS A BUFFER AGAINST IT
There’s one word that stands between people knowing the truth about virtually all areas of life – ‘access’. This is the ability of the media to stay on the inside of a story by being able to talk to the powerful. But it often comes with a heavy cost. One where there’s an entire industry that enforces the rules of the game. A game from which the reader, viewer or listener often gets removed. Increasingly it is this ‘access’ that governs so much of what you see in the media and is a big reason behind what you don’t. They used to say a reporter is only as good as their contact book; a reference to who they knew and their ability to get the inside word on a story. Now there are plenty of old-school reporters who still know the people they report on personally. But the next generation isn’t as well connected. They have put more time into getting to know the gatekeeper. ‘PR’, ‘ Media Liaison’, ‘Advisor’, ‘ Communications Professional’ – going by many names, they’e skilled and often nice people. But all become an almost impenetrable barrier between the media and what they are trying to write or film or talk about. Politicians love the buffer; it means they are rarely caught off guard in an interview. There is a group of people to handle not just media requests for comment on the day’s news, but dozens of people who use ‘access’ to string the media along. A year ago, I was told by one of them if I was nicer to their minister on TV then he would give me an interview. We never spoke again and suffice to say my editorials didn’t change. For a real democracy to work, you need to believe that there are people who ask hard questions and make powerful people feel uncomfortable, holding them to account for their inconsistencies and the consequences of the decisions they make. The heroes of the modern media aren’t the ones with the biggest Twitter following, or who pop up on TV all the time to trump their own ‘exclusives’. The people I look up to are the reporters who roam freely with no fixed beat. They are not full-time sports, political or business reporters. They bring fresh eyes to a situation because they don’t need the gatekeeper and couldn’t care less what the company, politician, athlete or subject of their focus thinks of their story. Little will prevent them from seeking out the truth. And they certainly won’t be concerned with its possible repercussions. One of the most famous examples of this came about 10 years ago when Rugby League was rocked by a salarycap scandal at the Bulldogs. This wasn’t exposed, as it should have been, by a full-time footy reporter. Rather, by two wonderful old-school reporters Kate Mcclymont and Anne Davies. What started as stories about property development ended with the team being stripped of all their points and receiving a hefty fine. We need more of these genuine outsiders in the Australian media. Who aren’t afraid of the buffer, who don’t obsess about their standing in the press gallery in Canberra, or play the access game with business leaders or celebrities. From our end, when trust has never been lower in the media, we – the media – need to be fearless to help restore some faith in our profession. So, if you are in the business, my advice would be to break free of the pack and remember, while the media companies pay your wage, we only owe one group true loyalty: the people who turn to us to know what’s really going on. Paul Murray LIVE, Monday-thursdays airs at 9pm AEST on SKY NEWS LIVE
THE ANCHOR ON PAUL MURRAY LIVE IS CONCERNED JOURNALISTS ARE NOT GETTING WHAT THEY NEED TO WRITE TH E STORY YOU, TH E READER, DESERVE. DOES HE HAVE A POINT?